Prevalence of owner-reported respiratory disease in Pony Club horses

Lower airway disease prevalent in British Pony Club horsess

source: R.G. Wheeler, R.M. Christley, C.M. McGowan
Veterinary Record vol 150 no 3 January 19 2002
starts p79, 3 pages long

A survey carried out of 104 ponies and horses from a British Pony Club camp has found that coughing is common among this population. Coughing is a common sign that a horse is suffering from lower respiratory tract disease, and the most common type of respiratory disease in Western Europe, including the UK, is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The horses sampled were from a Pony Club camp held in Somerset, in two months in 2000. There was a 97% response rate to the questionnaire. There were 44 mares and 60 geldings in the sample, with ages between five-years-old and 26-years-old, with a mean average of 13 years-old. Welsh crosses and Welsh ponies accounted for 32 of the sample, other ponies native to Britain for 18, part-bred Arabs for 14, and thoroughbreds for 10. Frequent coughing, occurring most days during exercise, was reported by 16.9%, and these horses tended to be older, with a 17-years-old mean age, compared to 12-years-old for horses that owners reported as not coughing frequently. Owners of horses that coughed were more likely to soak the horses’ hay prior to feeding, and soaking hay was the most common measure used by owners to deal with their horses’ breathing problems.

The percentage of horses coughing frequently and at least once weekly was 33.7%, and COPD may be underdiagnosed among these horses. Owners of a horse that coughs may simply change management practices, rather than ask the advice of a vet. Coughing did not seem to be reduced by horses being kept out of doors. The high level of coughing reported in this survey means that it is worth carrying out further research.